October 30, 2018

How to Protect Your Heart When You Have Prediabetes

Counter the risk of a heart attack or stroke by exercising and eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains

A close-up of a finger with a blood test strip.

If your doctor says you have prediabetes, it means your blood sugar is high but not quite to the level of diabetes. You may feel like you’re in the clear for now, but the truth is you’re already at higher risk for heart attack and stroke with prediabetes blood sugar levels.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

It’s pretty well known that high blood sugar can have an impact on your kidneys and blood vessels. So now is the best time to take steps to address those risks and protect your heart.

Cardiologist Monica Khot, MD, says the link between prediabetes and heart disease comes from elevated blood sugar levels which can cause inflammation and damage blood vessels.

So what can you do? Dr. Khot explains what you need to consider when it comes to protecting your heart when your blood sugar is even a little high.

Prediabetes by the numbers

A diagnosis of prediabetes typically means your blood sugar levels are:

  • Hemoglobin A1C between 5.7 and 6.4%.
  • Fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 mg/dL.
  • Glucose between 140 and 199 mg/dL (in a glucose challenge test).

Dr. Khot calls these levels “a yellow light warning signal.” If they get any higher, you’re in the range for diabetes.

What are the risks?

Although you may not have diabetes, being on the border can set off unhealthy changes in your body.

Prediabetes is one part of metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of blood clots and damage to coronary arteries. This may lead to heart disease and stroke.


A 2020 meta-analysis, which looked at the records of more than 10 million people, found that those with prediabetes had a 15% increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Those with diabetes also carry a higher risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

Even those with A1C levels just below prediabetes were more likely to have the first two conditions.

Taking control to protect your heart

If you have prediabetes, there are many things you can do to protect your heart.

1. Focus on the basics

“First, you have to get your other basic risk factors for heart disease under control,” Dr. Khot says, including:

2. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains

Dr. Khot recommends eating foods that have a low glycemic index to avoid increasing blood sugar levels further.

The glycemic index tells you how quickly foods with carbohydrates will raise blood sugar. The lower food is on the scale, the better.

“For instance, eating an orange is better than drinking juice because the body has to do more work to get to the sugar, and the sugars are then distributed more evenly,” Dr. Khot says. “If you watch your sugars, your numbers will start to go down from the yellow light to the green light.”


3. Get moving

Exercise is also a great way to reduce your risk of heart disease. If your weight is normal, Dr. Khot recommends walking 30 minutes a day, five to six days a week. If you need to lose weight, try to get in an hour of walking about six days each week.

“Data show you really need to walk more than 30 minutes a day to start losing weight,” she says.

Bottom line?

Prediabetes often comes on without any symptoms. But it’s important to know early if your blood sugar levels are creeping up so you can take steps to avoid moving into diabetes — and protect your heart and blood vessels.

Seeing your doctor for a yearly physical is the best way to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels over time. Or, if you have concerns about prediabetes, make an appointment for a blood sugar test now.

Related Articles

Doctor shaking hands with patient, with large heart and EKG line behind them
February 19, 2024
How Weight Affects Your Heart

Having underweight, having overweight and having obesity can be dangerous for your heart

Close up of hands holding heart rate wearable watch monitor and their phone
February 12, 2024
Next Time You Exercise, Consider Wearing a Heart Rate Monitor

This technology can benefit your workouts by helping you hit your target heart rate, resulting in better overall health and wellness

seated doctor and female in doctor office, with female's hand on heart, with daughter
February 8, 2024
Here’s When You Should Go to the Hospital for a Dangerous Heart Rate

A resting heart rate below 35–40 beats per minute or over 100 beats per minute may be cause for concern

healthcare provider speaking with older female in office
February 6, 2024
How Estrogen Supports Heart Health

Your natural estrogen levels support a healthy heart by improving your cholesterol, increasing blood flow and reducing free radicals

Caregiver and elderly male with head bent down
February 2, 2024
After Your Stroke: How To Handle 14 Common Complications

Your age, the type of stroke you had, the cause and the location can all impact your recovery

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

Older male in doctor's office with doctor holding tablet showing heart statistics
January 31, 2024
Extra Heartbeats: Should You Be Worried?

They’re rarely cause for concern, but you should still talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms

person holding hands to upper chest
January 26, 2024
How To Tell the Difference Between a Heart Attack and a Panic Attack

To help determine what you’re experiencing, focus on how the pain feels, the location of the pain, when it started and how long it lasts

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture